Ask dad-of-five Steven Teo if he's anywhere near a perfect father like his Instagram moniker and he'll tell you honestly: I'm far from a perfect father, I'm still very much a work in progress. With five young kids between the ages of 14 to 4, Steven is under no illusions that his job as a father is a piece of cake.

He acknowledges wryly: “Knowing that sacrifices have to be made nonetheless, and making the best out of any situation, is definitely a step in that direction of becoming more “perfect.”

Making choices

Parenthood is always about trying to make the best choices for our children. Steven knows this all-too-well. While he does not dispute the fact that it can be costly to raise children in Singapore, he and his family make conscious choices to mitigate this.

“Both me and my wife work, but even with that, I do feel bad about the lack of certain material comforts at times,” Steven says, “At the end of the day, we are very mindful of how the money spent on that taxi ride could be used for more meaningful experiences or saved for future contingencies.” So the family of seven gets around on public transport all the time–even to further places like Sentosa or the Singapore Zoo.

Doing so requires detailed logistical planning, such as ensuring everyone has used the restroom before the start of the journey and ascertaining if they should take a stroller out with them. “Thankfully, the children are generally well-behaved and help to take care of each other,” says Steven. “And even with all that, we happened to lose one of our children while taking a late bus ride home in 2018 because the kids can get tired by the end of the day. That was an ordeal that I hope we will never go through again!”

Raising them right

Steven freely admits that he is still working very hard to be the best father he can be. But he is insistent on doing all he can do to raise them right, giving them the love and attention they need, and imparting the right values to them.

He makes it a point to spend quality time as a family, doing things big and small together. He also takes the children on one-to-one bonding trips before they start Primary school. His enthusiasm for this is clear to see: “I would recommend this to all dads, because exploring new places with just one child is precious time spent together.”

Indeed, each child has unique needs, and Steven is well-aware of this. “I react differently to each child not because of favourtism, but because of their own characters and actions.” However, one thing that Steven stands firm on for all his children is openness in communication, upholding values like compassion and kindness in the lessons he teaches them.

And as for the harder topics like sex and vulgarities, Steven makes it a point to talk about them at home. He elaborates: “We want to be the ones to teach the children about things like that, where we can teach them what is right and what is wrong ourselves rather than have them learn from others outside.”

Enjoying the parenting process for what it is

And while the challenges of raising a bigger family are there–finances, time, attention–Steven wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It is always great to hear the kids calling Papa when I come home and amazing to see how they grow up and heartening to know that they have each other’s backs,” he shares with a warm smile. And for his favourite piece of advice for anyone who is considering having one child or five? “Look beyond the monetary cost (and supposedly returns), enjoy the parenting process, be genuinely grateful for all the milestones…” Steven says with conviction, “And be happy!”